The Secret Language of Teenagers: Why Should You Know It?

Deciphering the secret language of teenagers is key to connecting with your child, understanding them, and keeping them safe.
The Secret Language of Teenagers: Why Should You Know It?
Elena Sanz Martín

Written and verified by the psychologist Elena Sanz Martín.

Last update: 08 May, 2023

Throughout the ages, young people have shared their own language. These codes of communication serve to strengthen ties and to claim their collective identity, differentiated from the adults around them. Over the years, the expressions they use change, and, today, they’re highly influenced by the use of the internet and social networks. But why should parents know the secret language of teenagers?

It’s not a question of taking this shared and private jargon away from them. Nor is it an attempt on the part of adults to get on their level or try to assimilate with them. Parents need to adopt their role, the proper role, and not seek to become just another friend. However, being aware of these codes can be beneficial in several ways. We tell you about it below.

Why know the secret language of teenagers?

When you listen to your child talking to their friends or classmates, you may feel that they’re speaking in another language. From abbreviations, acronyms, and expressions that seem like hidden messages, deciphering them seems like mission impossible. The truth is that this form of communication helps to strengthen young people’s sense of belonging to their peer group. Therefore, it’s a natural and positive sign of this search for independence and identity.

There’s no need to be alarmed when we observe young people speaking or writing messages using these forms. Nor is it positive to prohibit these expressions or try to prevent them from using them, as they have a special importance for them. However, it’s important to be aware of the meanings of their codes. Here are the reasons why.

A mother and her teenage son sitting on the couch together, looking at a laptop screen.
Knowing the secret language of teenagers allows adults to better understand their children’s world and warn them of situations that could be dangerous.

It’ll help you understand your child better

We all build our thoughts based on language. Therefore, the words and expressions we use serve to shape those feelings and beliefs that are most deeply rooted in us. Being aware of the secret language of teenagers is a way to better understand your child’s inner world and to be able to access those hard-to-translate meanings.

Bridge the generation gap

Each generation has its own particularities, values, and ways of seeing the world. This’s why, at times, friction or conflict can arise between parents and children. If you want to be interested in your teenager’s perspective and see the world through their eyes, these keywords are essential. By not knowing them, you miss the nuances that represent the point of view of their peers.

It’ll allow you to be alert to possible risks

Being aware of the meaning of these particular expressions will allow you to detect any risk or dangerous situation in which your child may be involved. The internet is a great tool, but it’s also a source of dangers that often go unnoticed by parents. This happens because they’re unable to decipher what they see on their teenagers’ network profiles.

Discover the secret language of teenagers

For all these reasons, we encourage you to approach these codes and jargon to try to understand them. In order to make your task easier, we’ll show you some of the expressions most used by young people and their meanings.

Emojis and emoticons

It may seem that these virtual figurines are universally used, but that’s not the case. In fact, a study has found that adults and teenagers use them very differently and even interpret the meaning of the same symbol in different ways. In addition, some of them acquire different connotations to what’s seen at first sight. For example, the peach emoji is usually used to represent the butt, and cherries can refer to breasts or testicles.

At the same time, teenagers make use of these symbols to capture information about themselves in their Instagram biography and other social networks. A particular emoticon may refer to their group of friends or the particular relationship they have with someone.

A teenage girl looking at her phone, upset.
Many of these expressions that belong to the secret language of teenagers can be warning signs, so it’s best to know their meanings.

Internet and social networks lead us to live in a globalized world, so slang spreads quickly among the teenage population. Some of the most frequent examples in today’s society are the following:

  • Cringe: Communicates that something makes us feel embarrassed, ashamed, or grossed out.
  • POV: Means point of view and is used to describe a specific situation from a certain perspective. For example, “POV when you’re an only child.”
  • Random: A situation, thought, or comment that’s odd or unexpected, while a “random” plan refers to one that is unplanned.
  • Hype: Expresses great enthusiasm, excitement, or expectation for something that’s about to happen.

The secret teen language that should set off your alarms

Of course, there are some expressions that you need to pay special attention to because they may pose a danger to teenagers. Here are some of them:

  • 420: Refers to marijuana and its consumption.
  • SUGARPIC: A request for a suggestive photo.
  • GNOC: Means “get naked in front of the camera.”
  • GYPO: Means “get your pants off.”

Understand their world and be on alert

As you can see, there are many terms unfamiliar to adults that young people use assiduously. It’s important for parents to be aware of them. It’s not a matter of prohibiting their use, but of better understanding the world of your teenagers and remaining alert to any danger. If you detect a risky situation, don’t hesitate to talk to your child about it without judgment and with a willingness to support them. Also, seek help when necessary.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Comunello, F., Rosales, A., Mulargia, S., Ieracitano, F., Belotti, F., & Fernández-Ardèvol, M. (2022). Youngsplaining’and moralistic judgements: Exploring ageism through the lens of digital ‘media ideologies. Ageing & Society42(4), 938-961.
  • Fernández-Ardèvol, M., Belotti, F., Ieracitano, F., Mulargia, S., Rosales, A., & Comunello, F. (2022). “I do it my way”: Idioms of practice and digital media ideologies of adolescents and older adults. New media & society24(1), 31-49.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.